Underhanded maneuver

President of São Paulo Court of Appeals suspends ruling on use of less-lethal weapons by military police at protests

The president of the São Paulo State Court of Appeals, Paulo Dimas de Bellis Mascaretti, suspended yesterday, November 7, a trial court ruling that ordered the regulation of the use of force by military police at demonstrations. Mascaretti drew on a provision contained in a federal law from 1992 (Law No. 8,437/92) on the granting of precautionary measures against acts of state.

The Public Defender’s Office, which filed the case against the government of São Paulo, has five days to appeal the suspension. Until then, the military police has carte blanche to use less-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas against demonstrators and it is not required to prepare a code regulating police conduct at protests, as the sentence published by Judge Valentino de Andrade on October 19 had determined.

“The maintenance of the sentence would cause serious harm to public order and security, since it puts obstacles in the way of regular police activity in the performance of its institutional mission,” said the judge in his decision.

In another excerpt, he claims that the preparation of the code would cause confusion over the use of force by the military police: “Although the sentence in question allows for the possibility of using rubber bullets, tear gas and other more vigorous means ‘in extremely exceptional situations, when the protest, as a whole, is no longer peaceful’, this situation could certainly cause confusion about how the military police should act.”


The maneuver by Mascaretti drew criticism from human rights organizations that are following the proceedings. According to Conectas, which was admitted as amicus curiae in the case, the São Paulo State Court of Appeals and the state government are trampling on human rights and on international commitments made by Brazil.

“The state of São Paulo is alone in its insistence on not regulating military police action,” said Rafael Custódio, coordinator of the Justice program at Conectas. “By suspending the decision, the court has doubled down on its error and risks tarnishing the image of Brazil in the United Nations,” he added.

Custódio was referring to the court’s earlier suspension of a preliminary injunction issued in the case by Judge Aparecido in 2014. The debate on the injunction was taken to the 3rd Chamber of Appellate Judges, which had still not given its final decision when the sentence was published.


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